Importance and Impacts of AI Technologies, like ChatGPT, on the Construction Industry
What is ChatGPT?
The field of AI involves developing intelligent machines that can successfully perform tasks requiring humanlike intelligence using machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing, and robotics. Among recent AI developments, ChatGPT is one of the most remarkable. As a large language model based on the GPT-3 architecture, ChatGPT uses deep learning to understand and generate natural language text, enabling it to converse with users in a human-like way. It has been trained on vast amounts of text data and can be used for applications such as chatbots, language translation, content creation, and text analysis. With this technological context in mind, it is imperative to explore how AI—or conversational AI, like ChatGPT—can benefit the design and construction industries.
How can ChatGPT help the construction industry?
The construction industry is currently facing a labor shortage. Within the next ten years, approximately 50% of the construction workforce will be expected to retire, resulting in a significant workforce gap. At the same time, a limited number of new entrants are joining the industry because of its general unattractiveness, in large part due to low wages and manual and heavy work.
However, the industry now has the opportunity to utilize technologies such as AI to enhance its appeal to the next generation: digital natives.
AI can help companies identify potential retention issues, identify reasons why critical talent may be at risk, or assist firms in identifying future talent to recruit. It can be used to streamline the onboarding process for new entrants, helping to familiarize them with industry-specific processes and technologies—and this is only a brief overview of the capabilities of AI. With a seemingly endless variety of uses and applications, AI technology can undoubtedly be used to help make the construction industry more compelling and attractive to the next generation of workers. Let’s begin by discussing some of the industry’s current challenges and how AI might help remedy them.
- Rework: Rework is a major setback in construction that results in significant costs and waste each day. Past statistics indicate that it cost the industry approximately $500 billion in 2018. AI and data, however, can help companies identify patterns that have led to rework in the past, allowing for predictive insights and benchmarks to mitigate potential rework in future projects. This change alone holds the potential to improve the construction industry by reducing rework and increasing productivity.
- Augmenting Construction Workers’ Abilities: A substantial part of the average construction manager’s day is often taken up by mundane but necessary tasks: compiling or tracking data, updating invoices, updating stakeholders on projects, and so on. While some may feel apprehensive about leaving these sorts of tasks to AI, combining the power of AI with human expertise ultimately leads to a more productive outcome. AI technology can augment construction professionals’ expertise to enhance and augment their capabilities as well as provide project stakeholders with a complete understanding of all the activities throughout the lifecycle of construction projects, freeing up time for employees to focus on more strategic tasks requiring strategic thinking and greater mental agility.
- Situational Awareness: In the construction industry, situational awareness of all activities throughout the lifecycle of a construction project, ranging from contractual agreements to technology deployment and crucial aspects of construction, such as safety, productivity, and efficiency, is critical. By leveraging AI technology to enhance situational awareness capabilities, the construction industry can address these needs more effectively while ensuring the safety and well-being of all stakeholders involved, allowing the industry to become more competitive, agile, and responsive to the ever-evolving needs of society over the next twenty to thirty years.
- Educated Decision-Making: With the emergence of new AI and database solutions, we can become more informed and educated decision-makers in virtually every arena, particularly in establishing an efficient built environment. This concept encompasses not only the technical aspects of construction but also how it responds to the needs of the people within that environment. This can help us avoid reinventing the wheel with each project and prevent the strain often brought on by the complex challenges of modern construction projects. By leveraging these new technologies, we can make our project controls and management more human-centric than ever before, putting people at the forefront of decision-making while using technology to support and enhance their human capabilities.
- Enhancing Communication: When considering the complexity of a construction project site and the amount of communication required to ensure the project progresses smoothly, it becomes evident that there is vast potential for AI solutions to streamline this process. Chatbots such as ChatGPT could serve as a foundation for communication, offering an immediate response to basic inquiries that provide a starting point for the construction team to work from. For instance, AI solutions could automate punch lists and ensure that information is conveyed quickly and efficiently, significantly reducing rework.
These examples are only a few benefits the construction industry stands to gain from adopting AI solutions; in truth, the possibilities are practically endless. One roadblock to pursuing these new opportunities, however, may simply be the fact that they are new and unfamiliar. For designing and construction companies looking to explore these novel solutions, there are a few ways to make this transition more manageable.
What are the opportunities of using AI and data for construction companies?
- Learning from Other Industries (e.g., Manufacturing): The construction industry has an immense opportunity to leverage existing learnings from other fields, particularly from adjacent industries such as manufacturing. By tapping into the advancements already made in these industries, construction can gain a more concrete idea of how to benefit from utilizing AI in areas like generative design, where various “what-if” scenarios can be explored via AI to optimize the design process. The potential for AI to revolutionize the building side of the design is enormous, as can be seen from its recent uses in manufacturing.
- Harvesting the Intelligence of the Construction Industry as a Whole: The concept of the digital building lifecycle holds immense potential for the construction industry. By expanding it to include operations, thereby achieving a full digital thread, we can leverage the collective intelligence that already exists in the industry and define core processes. For example, through AI pattern recognition, we can identify the order in which decisions need to be made and what data should be used to back up those decisions, ultimately leading to improved outcomes and increased competitiveness for the industry as a whole.
- Harvesting the Intelligence of Your Company: While individual companies must focus on their own unique datasets and intellectual property, exploring solutions that can benefit the entire industry is equally important. By leveraging new tools and techniques and discovering what works (and what doesn’t), we can identify new opportunities for improvement and work collaboratively to unlock the industry’s full potential.
How to get prepared to leverage AI technologies?
Even if a company has seen the potential benefits of AI technology and decides to investigate how it can enhance its existing processes, knowing where to start can still be daunting. With the ever-changing landscape of technology and AI developments, there is no shortage of tools to choose from, but we must ultimately consider the needs of our companies and what internal challenges we are looking to solve.
- Data Strategy and Master Data Plan: The construction industry generates a tremendous amount of data daily— yet, according to a report by CII, 80% of it goes to waste due to a lack of governance and poor quality. Here, there is an obvious need for a comprehensive data strategy involving major industry players to establish potential technology solutions that ensure data is structured and utilized correctly. However, in the short term, there are also opportunities for improvement that can provide a return on investment and predictability using some form of automation. In such a multi-solution world where data is constantly being exchanged between different software and even across different cloud providers, a well-defined data strategy is critical for the construction industry to operate at optimal efficiency and ensure it remains competitive.
- Data Governance: To fully capitalize on the exciting potential of technology such as ChatGPT and Microsoft’s embedded solutions, it is necessary to take a step back and establish a solid data strategy for both individual companies and the construction industry. Data governance is critical to any organization’s data strategy, and establishing clear rules and policies around how data is collected, stored, and used is vital. By developing a comprehensive data strategy, the construction industry can ensure that data is used both effectively and efficiently to drive productivity, cultivate innovation, and achieve desired outcomes.
- Data Quality: As technology such as ChatGPT becomes increasingly prevalent in various industries, companies must focus on assessing the quality of their data and incorporating pre-training on what high-quality data looks like to improve their market analysis, marketing materials, claims, and resource distribution. By taking a more introspective approach to data management, companies can realize the full potential of ChatGPT and other AI tools. This requires a shift in mindset from viewing data as basic building blocks to recognizing its role in developing knowledge and wisdom. Only through careful attention to data quality and governance can organizations truly leverage the benefits of conversational AI and other advanced technologies.
Turning intentions into action
In sharing the above benefits and considerations for adopting novel technology, we hope to highlight the importance of an industry-wide data strategy. Major players in the field and technology solutions must come together and establish proper data governance and structure, but to achieve this, there must first be a conversation about where short-term opportunities for return on investments and gains exist.
In this pivotal moment of our technology-driven world, the primary industry focus should be to create a data strategy that ensures the right governance is in place and that data is structured in the most effective and efficient way. This will enable organizations to gain valuable insights from their well-organized data and consequently improve their market analysis, marketing materials, and claims. By investing in data quality, organizations can benefit from improved resource allocation and a better understanding of the concepts of wisdom and knowledge. It is through the prioritization of developing a data strategy that the industry at large will be able to harness the full potential of data and AI technologies.
Watch the full webinar here: Conversational AI & its Impact on the Design & Construction Industry.